Monday, 20 July 2009

Day five: Urana to Grong Grong

Thursday July 9, 2009, 107 km (66 miles) - Total so far: 569 km (353 miles)

Perhaps I should have slept in the toilet block after all. I felt allright when I woke up, but after breakfast I began to get a rather nasty sore throat, which got so bad I couldn't talk at all when we started riding. To make matters worse, we were stuck with a massive headwind the whole day. The terrain was pretty flat, but with the headwind, it was like riding uphill the whole day. We were averaging 16kph but working as hard as the day before when we rode at 22kph.

By the time we reached our lunch stop at Comundurah at 12pm, we'd only gone about 35km. I got the maps out and soon realised there was no way we were going to make it to our planned destination of Coolamon, which would've involved a 130km day. Indeed we'd be lucky to make it to Narranderah (90k) before dark.

The riding did get a bit better after lunch, when the monotonous wheat fields were replaced with wind sheltering bushland and a rolling hill or two. Everyone was struggling, me especially, and the group fragmented at a time when it would really have been best for us to stick together and fight the wind as a team. That said, the small shoulder meant that it was unsafe to ride two abreast. The trucks roaring past seemed incredibly unsafe. At one point when we'd pulled over to fix Jono's trailer, two trucks powered up the hill, taking up both lanes as one attempted to overtake the other. He just avoided hitting us, and if there had been any other traffic on the road, there would have been lives lost for sure (there was no way he could have seen the road ahead before he'd already pulled level with the other truck, leaving no room to manoeuvre).

It was quite a relief when we got to Narrenderah and off the awful Newell Highway. There was a caravan park in town, but I was keen to keep going if there was anywhere we could get to before darkness. The lady at the tourism office suggested Grong Grong, which was 22k up the road and which had a hotel we could stay at. Everyone agreed to keep going, so we did a quick supermarket shop and then gunned it for an hour, enjoying the lack of the headwind which had finally died off.

The hotel was a bit of a dump, but it was fairly cheap and felt like an authentic bush pub with a clientele of farmers and labourers who gave us tips on which route to take. Unfortunately for my lungs, there was a fire in the courtyard, which sent smoke into my room all night, with the result that I developed a nasty cough.

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